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I Actually am Getting a PhD in Religion

Thomas Whitley

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Why I'm Not Getting a PhD in Religion. It was a heartfelt post about how I have poured so much time, energy, and effort into my dream to get a PhD in religion and then teach religion at the collegiate level and yet would not be doing so. Many of you took the time to express your sympathies when I believed all was lost. Thank you. Since then I received a phone call from one of three programs I had not yet heard from when I wrote that post. They offered me a Graduate Assistantship in Teaching that carries with it a full tuition waiver and a small stipend. I officially accepted the offer Friday.

So, this fall I will be heading south to do my PhD at Florida State University in Religions of Western Antiquity. As you can imagine, I am beyond excited since I had completely given up on my decade-long dream. What is more, this program at FSU is one of the one's with which I thought my research matched up quite well.

Time will tell exactly what my research focuses in on, but here is my original research proposal that I included in my Statement of Purpose:

I propose to research the process of creating and maintaining identities in early Christianity as it occurred against the background of Second Temple Judaism and continued through the first few centuries of Christianity. I am particularly interested in sociological dimensions of the early Christian community, insofar as it can be ascertained from the texts. My proposed research would examine the ways in which early Christians created and maintained their identities both in conjunction with and in opposition to Judaism. The relationship between Judaism and Christianity in antiquity was a unique one that I believe resulted in distinctive processes of identity formation. These processes of identity formation occurred on multiple fronts. First, it had to occur at both the individual and the group level, as recent identity theory and social identity theory tell us. Second, while identities were certainly being created and maintained on the religious front, for many the process of identity formation was also one with ethnic implications.

This research proposal builds on my master's thesis, "The Israel of God: A Literary-Historical and Sociological Examination of Paul's Use of 'Israel,'" yet also tries to incorporate Jewish-Christian relations in antiquity as well as a much broader and more in-depth examination of other religious groups in the Greco-Roman world.

Go Noles!